Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Robert Rauschenberg - photographer

I came across a post on FB's Flak Photo Network by a FB friend Marcel Du who interestingly describes himself as a recovering art historian. Marcel has opened up the question as to whether or not Robert Rauschenberg could be described as a photographer. I then discovered this piece from New York Magazine, together with the photographs below.

From the very beginning of his mad, ecstatic, always-experimenting career, Robert Rauschenberg was looking at photographs. His hungry eye absorbed them; then they reappeared in his paintings, sculptures, and prints, and especially in his combines—the new form he invented, neither painting nor sculpture but a visual - material manifestation of abstract poetry. Rauschenberg appropriated photos from books, newspapers, magazines, advertisements, other artists, art-history books, anyplace. He cut them up, used them whole, pieced them back together, whatever. Given his fecundity—and a spate of pesky copyright cases brought against him—it’s no surprise to learn he also took pictures himself. Lots of them.

Yet there are surprises to be found in Robert Rauschenberg: Photographs: 1949–1962, an exhibition and book of 167 images from the years in which the artist invented his point-and-shoot style. Rauschenberg turns out to have been a natural, breezily brilliant with the camera, never more so than when shooting his circle of artist friends. We see Cy Twombly in Rome, dwarfed by an enormous Roman sculpture; a handsome Jasper Johns in his studio in 1955 next to his masterpiece Flag; an otherworldly Merce Cunningham crouched tigerlike in a motion until then unseen. These are closely observed windows into the nascent postwar art world. (The self-portraits of Rauschenberg—he was dashingly handsome, a young rake—with his work are no less revelatory.) There are images of grazing horses, landscapes, furniture, you name it.

He was good enough, even at the beginning, to have been taken seriously by Edward Steichen, who put one of Rauschenberg’s photographs in a MoMA show in 1951. Life ran a series of them the same year. Even after other work began to dominate his career, Rauschenberg once remarked, “I’ve never stopped being a photographer.” These pictures make Rauschenberg’s fearless eye come to new life. 

Merce Cunningham, 1953
Jasper Johns, circa 1955

Self portrait, circa 1954

John Cage, 1952

You can get yourself a copy of  Robert Rauschenberg: Photographs: 1949 - 1962 from Amazon HERE

Alec Soth BROKEN MANUAL frenzy?

Photo book fanatics who lined up outside stores overnight got their first crack Friday at a new cave themed Alec Soth photo book, getting so unruly in some cities that police were called to restore order.

Orange County Sheriff's deputies move the crowd back after an announcement Friday morning that a book sale was canceled at the Book Locker at Florida Mall in Orlando. Photo Joe Burbank/AP

In Orlando, Fla., more than 100 deputies in riot gear quelled a crowd awaiting the release of the $50 Broken Manual. At a mall in Hyattsville, Md., one person was arrested for disorderly conduct. And in Greenwood, Ind., police said they canceled a Soth release after 400-600 people showed up Thursday night at a mall and were "panicking to get to the front of the line." The book's release coincides with the current exhibition at Sean Kelly Gallery in New York.
The book, part of a cave-themed series, is a draw for so-called "Steidlheads" who collect signature photo books and can resell them online at a marked-up price, sometimes for hundreds more than retail. Among inner city intellectuals in particular, Steidl titles are seen as a badge of honor and often conspicuously displayed.

Malls in Florida, New York and Maryland reported bringing in police to manage fans clamoring for the blank covered manual, which has star-like flecks of black. Some shoppers lucky enough to get their hands on a pair of books immediately posted them for sale on eBay at skyrocketing prices: $1,000 and up.

This story looks pretty much like it has come from the crazy mind and pen of Lester B. Morrison!

Post Script: now with thanks to friend and colleague Tommy Arvidson in Sweden, you can see the original story HERE. It's a shoe in!

Soth's view of Parr

Martin Parr, in borrowed snowmobile suit and boots, photographed last month by Alec Soth
Alec Soth writes: Martin Parr is the Jay-Z of documentary photography. Parr's presence can be felt everywhere in the medium. He is, hands down, the hardest working photographer I know. At 60, Martin continues to crisscross the globe, snapping away like a 20-year-old.

Along the way he's published dozens of books and participated in hundreds of exhibitions. But this relentless enthusiasm stretches well beyond his own lens. Martin is also one of documentary photography's pre-eminent collectors and curators. His two-volume history of photo books has profoundly changed the way these books are valued culturally. Parr has also curated numerous photography exhibitions and has been instrumental in launching the careers of countless artists around the globe, mine included.
I first met Martin Parr when I applied for membership to Magnum Photos, the international photographic cooperative founded in 1947 by Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson. I was an odd fit for Magnum, but Parr saw potential and became a strong advocate for my work. Parr himself is considered a peculiar fit for the cooperative. Magnum made its name documenting wars and unrest in black-and-white. Parr's brightly lit color photographs of middle-class consumers have constantly challenged the idea of what is worthy of documentation.
This subject of class is key to understanding Parr's work and success. Where Jay-Z's universe brings together poverty and superstar bling, Parrworld (as one of his retrospectives was called) is a more ordinary place. Parr holds up a mirror to the fluorescent-lit shopping mall the world has become. But the British Parr doesn't hide from his own reflection. Dressed in a T-shirt and sandals (or in this case a snowmobile suit and boots), Parr allows himself to be seen as a ravenous consumer just like everyone else.

As both a photographer and as a Minnesotan, I was thrilled when I heard that Martin was coming here this winter. Beyond getting a kick out of the idea of him tromping around out in the cold, I was excited by the idea of him showing us ourselves in all of our ordinary glory.

Monday, February 27, 2012

"A Separation" - a step towards togetherness

LOS ANGELES, Feb 26 (Reuters) - "A Separation" won the Oscar for best foreign language film on Sunday, becoming the first Iranian movie to win the honor.
Written and directed by Asghar Farhadi, the domestic drama focuses on a couple going through a divorce and touches on traditions, justice, and male-female relationships in modern Iran. "A Separation" was regarded as the front-runner for the foreign language Oscar after sweeping the awards circuit in Europe and the United States. It also garnered an Oscar nomination for best original screenplay.It was the second Iranian film to be nominated for an Oscar, and the first to win.

"At this time, many Iranians all over the world are watching us and I imagine them to be very happy," director Farhadi said while accepting the Oscar. "At a time of tug of war, intimidation and aggressions exchanged between politicians, the name of their county, Iran, is spoken here through her glorious culture, a rich and ancient culture that has been hidden under the heavy dust of politics."
"I proudly offer this award to the people of my country, the people who respect all cultures and civilizations and despise hostility and resentment," he added.

"A Separation" has received almost universal critical acclaim, gracing many top 10 lists for the best movies of 2011.

Two nights before the Oscar ceremony, Israeli and Iranian artists came together in a show of peace, said Lior Ashkenazi, a star of the Israeli foreign language Oscar entry "Footnote". "At the Academy event in hour of the foreign films, we sat, spoke and all the veils came off," Ashkenazi told Israel's Army Radio. "They are warm hearted people. We invited them to Tel Aviv and they invited us to Tehran."

Farhadi, who works and lives in Iran, has been reluctant to entertain theories that his film is a parable for the struggles between Iran's young dissidents and its paternalistic mullahs, saying it is up to audiences to take from the movie what they will. Others have interpreted "A Separation" as a comment on class differences, or as a critique of Iran's justice system, or a clash between modernity and tradition.
Farhadi made the movie under Iranian censors who impose strictures on filmmakers in the name of Islamic morality and national morale. But he has said he was not confronted with censorship.

(Writing by Chris Michaud and Ron Grover; Editing by Jill Serjeant and Sandra Maler)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Dan Fox from frieze on Damien Hirst - art criricism is not dead

'Damien Hirst: The Complete Spot Paintings  1986–2011.' Installation view, Gagosian Gallery, Madison Avenue, New York, USA. (Photo by Rob McKeever)
Following my previous posts on art criticism here are a couple of extracts from the frieze blog, Dan Fox's review of Damien Hirst's Gagosian show(s) Complete Spot Paintings 1986 - 2011. Fox has titled the review Bland Ambition and in this instance critical writing is indeed alive and well...

Mostly it was inertia that kept me from Hirst’s show. Every pompous parp of PR trumpeting about it merely reinforced my indifference; the same flat-line reaction I have each time I see Hirst leering at the camera in his press photographs, looking like a fossil from the Britpop era for whom time froze sometime around 1995 in the Groucho Club toilets with Keith Allen and Alex James. The more the artistic significance of Hirst’s spot paintings was asserted – epoch-defining facts about how these works were made over the course of 25 years and lent to Gagosian by more than 150 private individuals and public institutions from 20 countries, and, yes, the inevitable publicity shots of Hirst mugging it up – the heavier my shoulders shrugged.


.....death and money – the perennial themes running through his work. I’m open to the idea that there is a serious argument to be made for such themes in certain pieces. In the case of ‘The Complete Spot Paintings 1986–2011’, however, it’s true only inasmuch as it makes me aware of how little time I have on this planet and how little of it I wish to spend looking at these works. They appear exhausted, self-absorbed, vain. It’s like watching some over-the-hill but wealthy rock star convinced that he/she still has some relevance when the world around them has moved on. Hirst’s show conjures the world of music industry exploitation captured by The Smiths in their song ‘Paint a Vulgar Picture’: ‘Re-issue! / Re-package! / Re-package! / Re-evaluate the songs / Double pack, with a photograph / Extra track (and a tacky badge).’

You can read the full review on the frieze blog HERE. A great review, a great read.

Is the age of the critic over? the guardian on FB

Following my yesterdays post on art criticism I came across this which is worth a read.

I particularly liked this paragraph from novelist Hari Kunzru, We now live under the hybrid tyranny of middlebrow. No serious person believes the Oscars are a list of the best films, or the Grammys the best music. Charitably one could say they represent a kind of averaging out, an index of the taste of a group of informed people. At worst, critics acting en masse, with one eye on what's popular and one eye on what's good, end up praising work that doesn't upset them. That's why there's so much stuff that looks like art, smells like art, but when you bite into it, it just tastes of cardboard.

Here is the LINK for the article.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Art criticism or art description?

Fortnightly, Sean O'Hagan explores photography, art, photojournalism and everything in between.

Following a round of gallery openings last Tuesday night and several rounds of cold beers last Friday with three well known and venerable painter friends I've been thinking about the business of art criticism. My painter friends and I agreed that so often these days art criticism has devolved into art description where the "critic" does nothing more than describe the work on the walls. Perhaps we've got to this point as gallerists have  become shop keepers and the art on the walls so often nothing more than expensive decoration.

This hasn't always been the case. Robert Hughes, one of my favorite critics,  told it like it was when when it came to dismissing the likes of Warhol, Schnabel, Basquiat, and Koons whom he saw as absurd charlatans. Hughes said of Schnabel, his work is to painting what Stallone's is to acting - a lurching display of oily pectorals. And David Hockney, he saw as the Cole Porter of painting.

Still mulling this over I kept running into artist friends who groaned to me about a show of photography by a young and recent Auckland art school graduate presented by a well known and reputable dealer gallery. I looked at the work on-line as was less than impressed. Then I read a "review", well description of the work and today set off to have a look in the flesh. In my view the work failed on every level. The work was overly derivative, rehashing borrowed concepts already milked dry and done better.  What's more, poorly seen, composed and constructed and the prints themselves were a technical nightmare with either over-saturated cyan or magenta. And the reviewer saw nothing, said nothing of this, but did comment on the mystery they found in the work. To my eye there was as much mystery here as in an Agatha Christie novel translated into Mandarin, with all the good bits taken out!

But relief is at hand. A regular dose of writing and observations from Sean O'Hagan,  the  guardian's photography writer is more than capable of lifting the spirits. You go can go there on this LINK.

And for a complete change of scene I always enjoy reading film reviews where the writers still are prepared to knee-cap a director for crap work. Here are a few choice examples.

BENEATH THE DARKNESS, New York Daily News, Reviewed by: Joe Neumaier, Jan 5, 2012, A dumb thriller starring Dennis Quaid as a weirdo mortician taunted by high school kids into revealing what he did with his wife and her lover years before - and look at the movies it rips off...

THE MEANS WAR, New York Post, Reviewed by: Lou Lumenick, Feb 14, 2012
Nearly totally laugh, chemistry and coherence free, this fiasco from the director of "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle'' has a script whose sensible parts would fit on a napkin with enough room left over for the Gettysburg Address.

ONE FOR THE MONEY, Rolling Stone, Reviewed by: Peter Travers, Jan 27, 2012
Everything in One for the Money rings cringingly false, from Heigl's absurd Snooki accent to Plum's romance with Joe Morelli, an Italian cop, played by – faith and begorrah – Jason O'Mara. To dismiss Julie Anne Robinson's direction as clueless would be a kindness.

THE DARKEST HOUR, Boxoffice Magazine, Reviewed by: David Ehrlich, Dec 28, 2011
The Darkest Hour isn't just a dark horse contender for the year's biggest joke, it's the darkest.

AFTER FALL WINTER, Time Out New York, Reviewed by: Nick Schager, Jan 24, 2012
While it may make the City of Light look beautiful, ultimately, this insufferable indie auteur's navel-gazer is just another faux-kinky vanity project in which its creator's neuroses are placed on an undeserved pedestal.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Ai Weiwei at Jeu de Paume, Paris.

Ai Weiwei, "Study of Perspective - Eiffel Tower," 1995–2003.*
Ai Weiwei – Interlacing is the first major exhibition of photographs and videos by Ai Weiwei. It foregrounds Ai Weiwei the communicator—the documenting, analyzing, interweaving artist who communicates via many channels. Ai Weiwei already used photography in his New York years, but especially since his return to Beijing, he has incessantly documented the everyday urban and social realities in China, discussing it over blogs and Twitter. Photographs of radical urban transformation, of the search for earthquake victims, and the destruction of his Shanghai studio are presented together with his art photography projects, the documenta project Fairytale, the countless blog and cell phone photographs. A comprehensive book accompanies this exhibition. 
Ai Weiwei is a generalist, a conceptual, socially critical artist dedicated to creating friction with, and forming reality. As an architect, conceptual artist, sculptor, photographer, blogger, Twitterer, interview artist, and cultural critic, he is a sensitive observer of current topics and social problems: a great communicator and networker who brings life into art and art into life.
Ai Weiwei was born in 1957, the son of the poet Ai Qing. Following his studies at the Beijing Film Academy, he cofounded in 1978 the artists' collective The Stars, which rejected Social Realism and advocated artistic individualism and experimentation in art. In 1981 Ai Weiwei went to the USA and 1983 to New York, where he studied at Parsons School for Design in the class of the painter Sean Scully. In New York he discovered artists like Allen Ginsberg, Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, and above all, Marcel Duchamp. Duchamp is important for him because he understood art as part of life. At this time, Ai Weiwei produced his first ready-mades and thousands of photographs documenting his life and friends in the Chinese art community in New York. After his father fell ill, he returned to Beijing in 1993. In 1997 he cofounded the China Art Archives & Warehouse (CAAW) and began from then on to deal with architecture as well. Ai Weiwei opened his own studio in 1999 in Caochangdi and set up the architecture studio FAKE Design in 2003. In the same year, he played a major role, together with the Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, in the construction of the Olympic stadium, the so-called Bird's Nest. Following its completion, it became a new symbol of Beijing. In 2007, 1001 Chinese visitors traveled, at his instigation, to documenta 12 in Kassel (Fairytale). In 2010 the world marveled at his large, yet formally minimal carpet of millions of hand-painted porcelain sunflower seeds at the Tate Modern.
Ai Weiwei deliberately confronts social conditions in China and in the world: Through photographically documenting the architectonic clear-cutting of Beijing in the name of progress, with provocative measurements of the world, his personal positionings in the Study of Perspective, with radical cuts in the past (made to found pieces of furniture) in order to create possibilities for the present and the future, and with his tens of thousands of blog entries, blog photographs, and cell phone photographs (along with many other artistic declarations). This first, large exhibition and book project of his photography and videos focuses on Ai Weiwei's diversity, complexity, and connectedness, his "interlacing" and "networking" with hundreds of photographs, blogs, and explanatory essays.
Detained on April 3rd 2011 by the Chinese authorities, released on bail on June 22nd 2011, Ai Weiwei is still today banned from leaving the country.
Curator: Urs Stahel, Exhibition co-produced by Fotomuseum Winterthur and Jeu de Paume, Paris.

Ai Weiwei

Until 29 April 2012
Jeu de Paume 1, Place de la Concorde 75008 Paris

Leon Borensztein - American Portraits

A box arrived this morning from Nazraeli Press, in it a copy of Leon Borensztein's wonderful book American Portraits sent to me by Leon at the suggestion of Todd Hido.
Leon Borensztein's American Portraits brings together ten years of portraits by the photographer. Visiting his subjects to make commissioned home portraits against a plain backdrop, with that job done Borensztein would make his own picture, taking a step back to reveal a glimpse into the subject's personal space. The resulting collection of photographs is a playful and heartfelt look into the lives of the everyday "salt-of-the-earth" Americans he encountered.

These photographs are honest pictures of ordinary people made with affection and tenderness. Looking through the book I'm reminded of the importance of both context and chance. Context from the point of view of what's included or not in a picture to influence its reading. And chance, given that Borensztein had little of no control over who he was turning up to photograph nor any control over the location. These two factor make these pictures even more remarkable. So often it is the little things that we find in the frame that make an image sing. For example, the "Magritte eye" just visible on the wall above the photograph of the man with the tattooed swastika on his chest or the veterans of the Canadian Forces image with the man standing on a box to bring him level with the woman he's with. Simple things but loaded.

These are open, uninflected photographs and that increases the quiet sense of mystery and the pleasure to be had looking for the visual clues to aid the reading. The reader is left with unanswered questions, what more can you want from a superb book of photographs.

Father with Son, Bakersfield, California, Leon Borensztein

Leon Borensztein, American Portraits, Nazraeli Press, 2011. Signed book, limited edition of 2,000, 96 pages, clothbound, 13 x 11", 60 duotone reproductions.

You can order a copy directly from Nazraeli Press HERE

Christian Boltanski - STORAGE MEMORY

Christian Boltanski has wrangled with questions of memory and the archive for more than three decades with influential works such as Chases School (1986-1987) and Reserve (1989) collecting and exhibiting traces of those who lost their lives in the Holocaust.

More recently, he has taken these questions in a more personal directions with projects like The Life of C.B. (2011) in which he stored thousands of photographs of his studio in a cave in Tasmania.

STORAGE MEMORY, which will begin this month, continues this more introspective exploration of remembering, recording and archiving. For the project, each month Boltanski will produce ten one-minute videos of himself and his life. Anyone interested can sign up on his website, and, for 10 euros, receive monthly video dispatches from the artist. He plans to continue posting these videos for the rest of his life, and taken as a whole they will provide a kind of open-ended self portrait of the artist sent out like a public postcard to all those who subscribe.
By presenting the work on the internet rather than in a gallery or museum, Boltanski hopes to reach an audience beyond the world of contemporary art. As the months and years go by it will be intriguing to see how this ambitious project develops.

You can subscribe to STORAGE MEMORY now by going to: christian-boltanski.com

A memorial to nothing, Christian Boltanski's work at the Grand Palais, Paris, 2010

Auckland, Sunday morning walking

Yesterday was a still and perfect summers day here in Auckland. The sky was an electric blue with few clouds and on my early morning walk through Ponsonby and Grey Lynn the unyielding light cast long, hard shadows. Here are some pictures.

Cindy Sherman at MoMA

Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #21, 1978

Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954) is widely recognized as one of the most important and influential artists in contemporary art. Throughout her career, she has presented a sustained, eloquent, and provocative exploration of the construction of contemporary identity and the nature of representation, drawn from the unlimited supply of images from movies, TV, magazines, the Internet, and art history. Working as her own model for more than 30 years, Sherman has captured herself in a range of guises and personas which are at turns amusing and disturbing, distasteful and affecting. To create her photographs, she assumes multiple roles of photographer, model, makeup artist, hairdresser, stylist, and wardrobe mistress. With an arsenal of wigs, costumes, makeup, prosthetics, and props, Sherman has deftly altered her physique and surroundings to create a myriad of intriguing tableaus and characters, from screen siren to clown to aging socialite.

Bringing together more than 170 photographs, this retrospective survey traces the artist’s career from the mid 1970s to the present. Highlighted in the exhibition are in-depth presentations of her key series, including the groundbreaking series "Untitled Film Stills" (1977–80), the black-and-white pictures that feature the artist in stereotypical female roles inspired by 1950s and 1960s Hollywood, film noir, and European art-house films; her ornate history portraits (1989–90), in which the artist poses as aristocrats, clergymen, and milkmaids in the manner of old master paintings; and her larger-than-life society portraits (2008) that address the experience and representation of aging in the context of contemporary obsessions with youth and status. The exhibition will explore dominant themes throughout Sherman’s career, including artifice and fiction; cinema and performance; horror and the grotesque; myth, carnival, and fairy tale; and gender and class identity. Also included are Sherman’s recent photographic murals (2010), which will have their American premiere at MoMA.

Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #58, 1980

The exhibition opens February 26 and runs until June 11.

MoMA has produced a major publication to accompany the exhibition, obtainable now on Amazon. It weighs in at over 2 kilos, with 264 pages and is just US$37.80.

Published to accompany the first major survey of Cindy Sherman's work in the United States in nearly 15 years, this publication presents a stunning range of work from the groundbreaking artist's 35-year career. Showcasing approximately 180 photographs from the mid-1970s to the present, including new works made for the exhibition and never before published, the volume is a vivid exploration of Sherman's sustained investigation into the construction of contemporary identity and the nature of representation. The book highlights major bodies of work including her seminal Untitled Film Stills (1977-80); centerfolds (1981); history portraits (1989-90); head shots (2000-2002); and two recent series on the experience and representation of aging in the context of contemporary obsessions with youth and status. An essay by curator Eva Respini provides an overview of Sherman's career, weaving together art historical analysis and discussions of the artist's working methods, and a contribution by art historian Johanna Burton offers a critical re-examination of Sherman's work in light of her recent series. A conversation between Cindy Sherman and filmmaker John Waters provides an enlightening view into the creative process.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Duane Michals - the hard work has been done before he picks up his camera

Duane Michals is a photographer whom I've always admired. Not just his photographs but the way he thinks. With his incredible sense of invention he relentlessly questions, himself and society. And it's quite clear that the hard work has been done before he picks up his camera.

He says this about his practice. Photographers walk around with a camera, looking for something that looks like a photograph, to take a picture of. I'm talking about reportage. The point I'm making is that what I did grew out of the need to express something, because what interested me was always life after death. My whole life is preparing myself for my death.
My inquiries, the way I view and question life, is all about the nature of life, but you can't examine the nature of life without wondering about the nature of death. It's yin and yang, you can't separate the one from the other. And, since we spend more time not being than we do being, then I find not being utterly fascinating. In a universe of three trillion million years, we spend 80 years alive, a nanosecond of breath which is our consciousness, and we spend this time unexamined. Most people are not even alive, they're on automatic, totally, with no consciousness of being.

It's the same with photographers. They look but they don't pay attention, and what they see is what they're told it's OK to see by critics or by official bona fide certifiers of photographs. But they're also examining somebody else's life, something they know nothing about. They hardly know anything about their own lives, and it's presumptuous for me to go to Harlem and photograph black people and pretend I know anything about them. But they only see in clichés. We live our lives in terms of clichés. We live very second-hand lives.You know what it's like? It's like reading a hundred love stories, and then falling in love. It's two different things, two different experiences. Photographers are artists reading love stories, they're always looking at other people's emotions, other people's passions without really knowing their own true passions, which is harder to do.

Steidl have just republished Michals 1982 artist's book A Visit with Magritte. Not surprisingly Magritte is an artist that Michals admires and 1965 he photographed the painter in his house in Belgium. Michals comments, "If I indulge myself and surrender to memory, I can still feel the knot of excitement that gripped me as I turned the corner into Rue Mimosas, looking for the house of Rene Magritte. It was August, 1965. I was thirty three years old and about to meet the man whose profound and witty surrealist paintings had contradicted my assumptions about photography."

Joerg Colberg and his many sites

German by birth, educated with a doctorate in astrophysics, now residing in the United States Joerg Colberg is today one of the more perceptive critics and writers on contemporary photography. And at last count three active and informative photography related websites to his name.

Colberg's website Conscientious is a site dedicated to contemporary fine-art photography. It offers daily profiles of photographers, in-depth interviews, exhibition and book reviews, and general articles about photography and related issues. More detailed contents – such as the interviews and longer articles, including contributions by guest writers – can be found in the "Extended" section.

The Independent Photobook is a site founded by Colberg and Hester Keijser. Its purpose is to provide a platform for photographers to announces their independently published and/or produced photography books or zines, which are not available via Amazon or other standard outlets.

Joerg Colberg also has a YouTube channel where he presents photobooks by leafing through and talking about them. The YouTube channel is complimentary to his Conscientious site.

If you haven't seen and enjoyed any or all of these sites, they are highly recommended and a must for anybody remotely interested in the now of contemporary art photography.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Two stories from todays news

Bacon portrait fetches $34 million in London sale

A portrait of a female nude by Francis Bacon sold for 21.3 million pounds ($33.7 million) at Christie's on Tuesday, helping bring the total for the post-war and contemporary evening sale in London to 80.6 million pounds ($127.5 million).
"Portrait of Henrietta Moraes", painted in 1963, came toward the lower end of estimates of 18-25 million pounds ($28.5 million-$39.5 million) if the buyer's premium is taken into account. But it was still the highest price paid for a painting in its category at auctioneers Christie's London in four years.

23 million at risk in African drought

The International Federation of the Red Cross says the hunger crisis in the arid, western shoulder of Africa could spread to 23 million people without more immediate aid. The federation - an umbrella group for national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies around the world - estimates 10-14 million people now do not have enough food in the Sahel region due to failed rains, pest attacks and local flooding. IFRC's regional representative for Sahel, Momodou Lamin Fye, told reporters on Tuesday in Geneva that Chad and Mauritania each harvested only half of what was needed.

Not wanting to point out the obvious, but there is a strange and cruel irony in the way the shape of the African woman in the photograph above mirrors the figure in the Bacon painting. We live in a beautiful and sad world!

In Numbers: Serial Publications by Artists Since 1955

Semina 4, 1959, [Scott Street], San Francisco

The Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, presents, In Numbers: Serial Publications by Artists Since 1955. The show is a survey exhibition of the often-overlooked genre of serial publications produced by artists around the world from 1955 to the present day. From the rise of the small press in the 1960s, to the DIY zine culture in the 1980s and early 1990s, professional artists have always seized on the format of magazines and postcards as a site for a new kind of art production.

In Numbers is the first survey to define a neglected artform that is neither artists’ book nor ephemera, but is entirely its own unique object. The publications are by young artists operating at the peripheries of mainstream art cultures and established artists looking for an alternative to the marketplace. The publications are artworks, often idiosyncratic and produced in collaboration, and they do not feature news items, criticism, or reproductions of artworks.

The exhibition runs at the ICA until March 25th.

In Numbers Catalogue

In Numbers is the first volume to address an overlooked art form that is neither artist's book nor ephemera, but is entirely its own unique entity: the artist's serial publication. Across such groundswell moments as the small press boom of the 1960s, the correspondence art movement of the early 1970s and the DIY zine culture of the 1980s and early 1990s, artists have seized on magazine and postcard formats as forms in themselves. These are not publications that print criticism, manifestos or reproductions of artworks; rather, they are themselves artworks, in large part factured by younger artists operating at the peripheries of mainstream art cultures, or by established artists looking for an alternative to the marketplace. Dating from 1955 to the present, In Numbers begins with Wallace Berman's Semina and continues through Joe Brainard's C Comics, Situationist Times, Eleanor Antin's 100 Boots, File, Robert Heinecken's modified periodicals, the Japanese group Provoke's magazine, Ian Hamilton Finlay's Poor.Old.Tired.Horse, Fluxus, Art-Language, Raymond Pettibon's Tripping Corpse, Maurizio Cattelan's Permanent Food and contemporary examples such as North Drive Press, LTTR and Continuous Project. (Approximately 60 publications in total are surveyed.) Documenting the history of each publication—its inception, production, distribution and impact—together with a fully illustrated bibliography for each title, In Numbers is embellished with essays by Clive Phillpot, Nancy Princenthal, William S. Wilson and Neville Wakefield. An illustrated conversation between Collier Schorr and Gil Blank provides an overview.

The catalogue is a 440 page hardback volume which I highly recommend.
You can get it from The Book Depository UK by going HERE

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective at SFMOMA

Vondelpark, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, June 10, 2005

Few contemporary artists have been able to capture the vulnerable and volatile nature of teenagers like Rineke Dijkstra, who is to be given her first mid-career retrospective in the United States at SFMOMA, opening February 18th. The museum will feature nearly 70 of Dijkstra’s photographs and five video installations, including two recent projection pieces (it travels to the Guggenheim in June for its major New York debut). The Dutch artist is known for the intensity with which she fixes her lens on subjects at critical moments, like the impermanent and unstable state of adolescence, or the exhausted and relieved repose of the hours after birth.

Her method is old school: a blend of happenstance and calculation. She is most comfortable with a low-fi approach, and uses nothing more than strobe for assistance, allowing her portraits to attain a raw but hauntingly painterly quality. The relationship between the history of painting and her body of work has been of interest to critics, expressed in several essays in the exhibition’s accompanying catalogue. Works on view include her prolific series dedicated to child refugee Almerisa, who Dijktra photographed every few months into her adulthood, charting the changes she experienced both in her personal life and those visible to the camera as she was slowly molded by the social influences of stable Western European life. Another highlight will be her beach portraits of teenagers, which produce a magical window into the lives of these self-assured, self-aware, and often self-conscious young adults.

Almerisa, Wormer, the Netherlands, February 21, 1998
Amy, The Krazyhouse, Liverpool, England, December 23, 2008
Long Island, N.Y., USA, July 1, 1993
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, February 18 to May 28

Reposted from ARTINFO

Monday, February 13, 2012

“Thank you, Darling!” Images from the Private Cabinet of Renate Gruber

Elsa Martinelli by J.Chillingsworth 1956
If you are in Cologne on Friday March 2 here is a unique and very special opportunity to acquire a photograph (or photographs) from the outstanding Renate Gruber collection and at the same time help support Schaden.com.

Unknown and classic images by international and German photographers will be shown in public for the first time and are a generous private donation by Renate Gruber in support of Schaden.com.

Prof. Dr. Christoph Schaden will introduce the evening and Simone Klein, Director of Photographs at Sotheby’s Paris will be on hand to offer advice to potential buyers.

For those who don't know Schaden.com, Markus Schaden and his team, through their drive, incredible knowledge and enthusiasm, year after year, have done so much to support photographers. What's more Markus Schaden is a major contributor to the incredible momentum and interest in the photobook as an important vehicle for photography.
In 1995, Markus Schaden founded the Schaden publishing house, which focuses on limited-edition photography books and special releases. His bookstore in Cologne, is one of the finest resources for unique contemporary photography books.

You can go to Schaden.com HERE

Friday March 2nd, 2012 6 – 9pm
Schaden.com, Körnerstrasse 6 – 98. 50823 Köln

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Paul Graham - The Present

Park Avenue, 26th May 2010, 1.19.02 pm, 2010

Published by MACK, The Present is the third in Paul Graham’s trilogy of projects on America which began with American Night in 2003 and was followed in 2007 by a shimmer of possibility (winner of the Paris Photo Book Prize 2011 for the most significant photo book of the past 15 years). The Present takes Graham’s reputation as a master of the book form to new heights, employing multiple gatefolds to convey passages of time and the unfolding of urban life.
Street photography is perhaps the defining genre of photographic art. Seminal works by Walker Evans, Harry Callahan, Robert Frank and Garry Winogrand display photography’s astonishing dance with life, and its unique role in forming our perceptions of the modern world.
The Present is Paul Graham’s contribution to this legacy. The images in this book come unbidden from the streets of New York, but are not quite what we might expect, for each moment is brought to us with its double – two images taken from the same location, separated only by the briefest fraction of time. We find ourselves in sibling worlds, where a businessman with an eye patch becomes, an instant later, a man with an exaggerated wink; a woman eating a banana walks towards us, and a small focus shift reveals the blind man right behind her.
Although there are flashes of surprise – a woman walks confidently down the street one moment, only to tumble to the ground a second later – for the most part there is little of the drama street photography is addicted to. People arrive and depart this quiet stage, with the smallest shift of time and attention revealing the thread between them. A suited young businessman crosses the road, only to be replaced by his homeless alternate; a woman in a pink t-shirt is engulfed with tears, but seconds later there is a content shopper in her place.

The Present gives us an impression quite different to most street photography where life is frozen rigid. Here we glimpse the continuum: before/after, coming/going, either/or. A ‘present’ that is a fleeting and provisional alignment, with no singularity or definitiveness; a world of shifting awareness and alternate realities, where life twists and spirals in a fraction of a second to another moment, another world, another consciousness.

114 pages, including 13 gate-folds, 24.5 cm x 30.5 cm, hardback with embossed cover
€55.00 / £45.00 / $70.00

125th Street, 9th March 2010, 2.09.36 pm, 2010

23rd Street, 2nd June 2011, 4.25.14 pm, 2011

Broadway, 3rd June 2010, 2.10.12 pm , 2010

6th Avenue, 28th June 2010, 12.23.59 pm, 2010
The Present launches at Pace Gallery, 545 W 22nd St, New York on Thursday 23rd February. The book launch coincides with an exhibition of the work which will be on view from February 24 through March 24.

Friday, February 10, 2012

FOTOMUSEUM WINTERTHUR - still searching, a new photoblog

FOTOMUSEUM WINTERTHUR has a new blog called still searching. The blog aims to be a continually growing and developing internet discourse on the medium of photography. It will feature a number of participants and is conceived as an online debate on forms of photographic production, techniques, applications, distribution strategies, contexts, theoretical foundations, ontology and perspectives on the medium. It will explore photography’s role as a seminal visual medium of our time - as art, as a communication and information tool in the context of social media or photojournalism, and as a form of scientific or legal evidence. This discourse will be conducted by theorists, critics, educators, enthusiasts, users and also photographers. Still Searching is moderated by the Fotomuseum Winterthur and located on its website.

The blog was launched on January 15. The German photo historian and theorist Bernd Stiegler will kick off the blog (January 15 to February 29), the Indian writer Aveek Sen, (March 1 to April 14), US artist Walead Beshty (April 15 to May 31), and Belgian photo theorist Hilde Van Gelder (June 1 to July 14, 2012) will follow until the summer break. Geoffrey Batchen, the photo historian and theorist currently working in New Zealand, will initiate the autumn season (September 15 to October 31).
Currently David Campany is featured on the blog as a co-blogger. Campany, whose point of view always has substance,  is a writer and curator of photography based at the University of Westminster, London.

still searching is well worth a look, you can go to it HERE

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Auckland Project - Signed copies now shipping!

Hot off the press from Radius Books....

Both trade and signed copies of John Gossage and Alec Soth: The Auckland Project are now shipping. If you have pre-ordered this book it will be in your hands very soon. If you haven't ordered a copy yet, be sure to act quickly as all editions are close to selling out.

Trade edition: $55, Signed Edition $60. You can ORDER HERE

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Arles 2012: Prix Voies Off

© Marlous Van Der Slott, Sélection Prix Voies Off 2011

For the past 17 years, Voies Off has offered an alternative approach to emerging contemporary photography, its particularities, its evolutions, and its areas of resistance. Voies Off night projections during the opening week of the Rencontres d’Arles festival (first full week in July) have become an international reference for the discovery of emerging authors and the alternative venue that it creates for international photographic creation. Year after year, the selected themes have met the evolution of our contemporary world with a critical eye. Over twenty different nationalities are represented at each festival. Every year over sixty candidates are selected for the programme of the night-projections.
Every July, the Voies Off prize is awarded by a jury of renowned professionals to an artist for the clarity of their vision and the high quality of their work. The amount of the prize is 2,500 euros.

You can apply on line HERE

Sébastien Girard's near perfect trilogy

Sébastien Girard's trilogy of near perfect photobooks, under house arrest, desperate cars and nothing but home, deal with the imperfect, disorder, disruption and unease.

Gerry Badger has this to say: Under House Arrest is the third in an ongoing series of self-published books by the Toulouse-based photographer Sébastien Girard. The first, Nothing But Home, dealt with the remodeling of his house. The second, Desperate Cars, examined cars in his neighborhood that had been slightly damaged in some way. One could say they had been “stressed,” because that reflects the anthropomorphic nature of much of Girard’s imagery. Now Girard has turned his attention to the fences and hedges that protect properties. French property-owners value their privacy, thus life in France is often conducted behind walls, fences, doors, and gates (just think of Eugène Atget). In the suburbs, the fence is combined with thick walls of greenery to keep out prying eyes. But Girard regards the hedges (nature) as being fenced in, imprisoned by man (culture), and in his anthropomorphic way sees them as yearning for escape. These must be among photography’s most uneasy plants. They are fierce-looking, certainly, as befits their function, like caged animals straining to escape, reaching out through the bars of their confinement. Like the “desperate” cars he photographed, Girard somehow manages to elicit our sympathy for this greenery. In all three of his books, Girard demonstrates the power of and a fascination with the forensic close-up. I use the term “forensic,” because he utilizes unremitting flash lighting to create the impassive look of a true documentary image, the aesthetic seen in crime or scientific photography, where the photograph is an evidential document of something that has happened. An experiment. A crime. A natural phenomenon. What has actually happened in Girard’s imagery? Nothing, though we are familiar enough with crime photography for these photographs to suggest strongly that something - probably something not very nice - has taken place. But Girard is clever and these pictures are not as harshly forensic as they look, in part the result of the design and sequence of Under House Arrest. The imagery is not quite typological, yet the small differences, between the hedges and also the fences, are important. It’s amazing how these superficial differences help to create not only a narrative flow, but also a sense of character and psychological nuance. Indeed, the whole series demonstrates the expressive potential of moving in close. Sébastien Girard has taken great pains to signal that this is a coordinated series of books. Each is the same size and superbly printed, the designs are similar, although not absolutely identical, and a colored, diagonal pattern runs down each spine, a different color for each volume, as well as for both the ordinary and deluxe editions. Photobook lovers will want this series to grace their bookshelves, and these color-coded books will stand out on them, although the high quality of Girard’s work would surely ensure that in any case.

Work from under house arrest is currently to be seen in the Bruce Silverstein Gallery, New York, annual group show which closes February 25th. More HERE

You can buy books directly from Sébastien Girard by going to his site HERE

The Art of Small Books......

Here is something close to my heart!

Soho Photo Gallery, New York, presents a guest exhibition with Aperture Foundation on the art of making small books, exploring the intimacy gained from a journal-sized format. Like novels or short-story collections, these books are meant for the reader to interact with, not simply to be viewed or put on display. The art of making small books frequently begins with an act of diplomacy: that of convincing the artist involved that small can be beautiful, too. While there is much to be gained from trading the larger reproduction size of an over-sized book for a smaller-scale presentation, photographers who are accustomed to working with large-sized prints can be especially loathe to give up on scale as a way of presenting their work. The traditional publishing logic about smaller-size books has tended to revolve around practicality and affordability—the Aperture Masters of Photography series, for example, originally created in the 1970s in collaboration with the French publisher Robert Delpire, was intended as an affordable means of bringing photography to the masses. When Aperture embarked on the Midwest Photographers Publication Project, a series of books intending to introduce emerging photographers from the Midwest to a larger audience, the format was borrowed as a nod to that original intention. Increasingly, of course, with photographers oriented less toward giant-sized prints and more toward the book as the final form for their work, there seems to be a further interest in keeping things small, for both practical and conceptual reasons. Several of the books included in this show take their form as a result of the artist coming to the table with a concept that hinges on the ability of the finished work to "pass" as, or at least refer to—something other than your typical coffee-table book: Christian Marclay's Shuffle, which takes on the guise of a deck of cards; Takashi Homma's Tokyo, the form of which gives a nod to the Penguin Classic pocket-size novel; Stanley Greene's Black Passport, with its rounded corners and reference to the classic travel document. Even Martin and Munoz's Travelers is kept within the confines of typical snow-globe scale. Most especially, what is to be gained from the smaller-size book is the intimacy that comes from the journal-sized format, which carries with it reference to both the personal diary and the classic literary form of a novel or a collection of short stories, intended to be read or interacted with by the reader, not simply viewed and put on display.

The Art of Small Books, Opening reception: Thursday, February 9, 2012, 6:00–8:00 pm
Exhibition on view: Wednesday, February 8, 2012–Saturday, March 3, 2012

Soho Photo Gallery, 15 White Street, New York, New York, (212)226-8571


Pieter Hugo, The Honourable Justice Unity Dow. From the series Judges Botswana, 2005.

The South African photographer Pieter Hugo’s (Johannesburg, 1976) monumental photographs, centred around contemporary Africa, are now well known around the world. He has already won numerous awards including the KLM Paul Huf award in 2008 and was recently nominated for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2012. The Hague Museum of Photography will be the first museum to exhibit a comprehensive survey of Hugo’s work from 2003-2011. Together with many previously unseen works, the exhibition will include a curated selection of his most well-known series: The Hyena & Other Men, the bizarre Nollywood and the striking Permanent Error. His impressive portraits tell personal stories about recurring themes throughout his oeuvre, namely those people who inhabit the margins of society in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The differences between the West and Africa, rich and poor, white and black are confronted in Hugo’s vivid compositions. Many of his series are prompted by newspaper articles, or radio and television pieces, which he finds compelling. He came in contact, for instance with the group of men who travel around Nigeria with hyenas and pythons, through an image sent via cell phone camera by a friend. He decided to accompany the group on their travels, and the outcome of this experience is The Hyena & Other Men (2005-2007), a series of portraits from a travelling group of street performers, who together with their — sometimes forcefully — tamed animals earn money to continue travelling.

In the series Permanent Error (2009-2010) he offers portraits of young men and woman who live amidst an immense waste dump of broken computers, mother boards and keyboards. To earn money these young people burn the computers dumped here as a means to extract valuable metals. The dangerous and poisonous vapours produce a hell on earth, where the quality of life is already challenging. The people who pose for Hugo stand in front of the camera with a defiant self-confidence.

From a different perspective comes his series about Nollywood (2008-2009) in Nigeria, the biggest film industry in the world after Hollywood and Bollywood. Here, stories that have for centuries been part of an oral tradition are told in dramatic films in which a central role is reserved for themes such as romance, witchcraft, bribery and prostitution. It is this world, where the everyday and the surreal exist simultaneously, that Hugo finds fascinating. In this series Hugo depicts actors and assistants posing in the role of movie characters. The result is an absurd tableau such as a photo of a half-naked woman sitting on a bed with a bloody knife stuck between her breasts. All the while she stares blankly at the camera. In another image, a woman well-dressed in Nigerian clothing sits completely unfazed by the man next to her made-up as the devil.

Publisher Prestel - Munich will produce a concurrent book, Pieter Hugo - This Must Be The Place (€49,95) with essays by T.J. Demos and Aaron Schumann.

PIETER HUGO - This Must Be The Place,
The Hague Museum of Photography, Stadhouderslaan 43, 2517 HV Den Haag
3 March until 20 May 2012

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Auckland - some unanswered questions

If you're a photographer these days so much time is spend in front of your computer. My antidote to that is to walk. And when I walk I think, I look and I make pictures. So often these pictures don't have a particular purpose other than to serve as a record as to what I've seen. As I'm walking and looking I like to find and photograph things that ask the question, why is this or that the way it is. For me the pictures become unanswered questions. Perhaps they will even have a life beyond my intuitive decision to look and shoot. Here are some unanswered questions from last weekend....